The Druid Theatre Company’s touring production of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World has made another appearance to the North West with a visit to the Liverpool Playhouse.
Druid’s talented cast of eleven put in a two-hour performance the Irish playwright would have been proud of you feel as they emphasise the peasant life aspects of the story and keep to the stylised realism his writing became known for.
Award-winning artistic director of Druid, Garry Hynes, sets out to re-evaluate and re-engage with the Irish dramatic giant. Incredibly, Hynes’ company – under the title DruidSynge – previously undertook a mammoth project staging all six of Synge’s plays in one day, taking it on a tour of America.
The theatre company’s new production of The Playboy of the Western World did not, thankfully, create riots like its world premiere at the Abbey Theatre did in 1907. But some members of the audience did walk out after Act Two of the three-act play.
Francis O’Connor’s set design, depicting a grubby and run down public house in County Mayo made out of wood and with a sawdust floor covering the stage, does not change throughout as the audience is introduced one-by-one to each of the characters.
The central storyline of The Playboy of the Western World is about a simpleton called Christy Mahon (Aaron Monaghan) who stumbles into Michael James Flaherty’s battered pub claiming he has killed his father, but in doing so he not only captures the imagination of the locals, but also the romantic attention of Flaherty’s (John Olohan) daughter, Pegeen Mike (Clare Dunne).
Amongst Druid’s eleven-strong ensemble, the gangly Marcus Lamb’s portrayal of Pegeen’s betrothed Shawn Keogh brought out a lot the humour of the play with his wimpy performance.
However, Monaghan’s decision to reprise the role of Christy Mahon was a good one as he plays the part engagingly.
Without wishing to offend the actor, his appearance does help his character’s own questioning of why any woman would be baying for his affection as his big nose only helps to create a more unattractive look. This becomes accelerated by Monaghan’s choice of limping slightly and a constant vileness of spitting on the stage throughout.
Synge’s poetic words are delivered by a cast clearly enjoying the chance to perform his work. Their energy and comic timing is very good when it is required.
Druid’s version of The Playboy of the Western World will not please everyone, which was reflected by those audience members who did leave early, but for a night of pure theatrical enjoyment this is the production for you.
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